Sexual problems

Some kidney patients never have sexual problems, but many do.

The reasons for these problems may include:

  • Hormonal problems: The hormones that control sexual urges may be either higher or lower in people who have kidney failure.
  • Medication: Some of the medication prescribed to renal patients may have the effect of inhibiting sexual desire.
  • Tiredness: This can be caused by anaemia or by not having dialysed sufficiently.
  • Emotional factors: When people feel stressed, depressed or anxious, they often do not feel like having sex.
  • Relationship difficulties: The stress that kidney failure can bring to a relationship may affect the couple's sex life.

Sexual problems in men

Impotence (the inability to get or maintain an erection) may be a problem in male kidney patients.

There are various approaches to treating impotence. Initially, doctors will look at possible causes such as anaemia, under-dialysis and medication, and consider the treatments for them. There are physical treatments for impotence that can be considered including physical techniques and drugs.

Sexual problems in women

When women patients experience a lack of sexual desire or inability to have orgasms, causes related to anaemia, under-dialysis and medication can be investigated.

There may be changes in the menstrual cycle and there is no doubt that the chances of getting pregnant if the kidneys have failed are much reduced. If kidney function is only mildly impaired and the blood pressure is under control before and during pregnancy, it is likely that pregnancy will progress as normal, but there will be a close liaison between the kidney doctor and the obstetrician. Some drugs particularly ACE inhibitors will need to stop before pregnancy and the blood pressure will be checked very carefully.

If you want to know more about the effects of kidney failure on pregnancy then speak to staff in the kidney unit. And discuss any changes in your periods so that things can be checked out.

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